Reducing Wait Times in an Acute Hospital's Emergency Department

Biao Wang and Lyndia Stacey
Case revision date: 
4 pages (Case Study)

A significant aspect of any service is wait time. For health care systems, particularly in an Emergency Department (ED), this can have a substantial impact on the quality of treatment and is an important service quality indicator. Unfortunately, as reported in 2015, Canada placed last in ED wait times compared to other countries that also have universal publicly funded health systems. There were approximately 27% of Canadians who reported waiting over 4 hours at an ED compared to 5% in the United Kingdom and 1% in the Netherlands. Improving wait times in EDs has been a challenge for many years and some the complications relate to the provision of emergency care. One problem originates from the age distribution of patients coming to the ED.

As part of a larger healthcare research activity in 2011, a Department of Management Sciences’ research team analyzed the 2010-2011 wait time data at St. Mary’s General Hospital (SMGH) in Kitchener. The goal was to better understand the factors affecting when a patient first sees a physician. St. Mary’s ED is a full-service department, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In 2010-2011, just over 130 people were treated daily in their ED.

Emergency room statistics 2013-2014

Learning objectives: 

The main teaching objective of this case study is to have students apply quality management and control techniques to an Emergency Department context. Students are also able to apply process flow analysis (PFA).

Key words: 
Emergency department wait times, service quality, quality management and control, process flow analysis
CEAB attributes: 
Module 01– Case Study
Module 02– Conference Paper (referenced in case)
Module TN– Teaching Note

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